GOOD PERFORMANCE BY ENGRO & FAUJI FERTILIZER

Further improvement may not be there due to the GoP policy

   By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
F
eb 10 - 23, 2003 

The two companies belong to fertilizer sector, Engro Chemical Pakistan and Fauji Fertilizer Company, have posted attractive financial results for the year ending December 31, 2002. However, they may not be able to further improve their profit in future mainly because of utilization of installed capacity at optimum level. With the growing fertilizer demand but hardly any addition in installed capacity, it is feared that the country may once again become a net importer of urea.

Engro Chemical Pakistan (ECPL) achieved a record production of 852,000 tonnes during the year 2002, an improvement over previous best of 808,000 tonnes achieved in year 2000. It also managed to improve its share in DAP sale from 13% to 27%, from 165,000 tonnes to 309,000 tonnes. As a result of higher production of NPK, sale of this type of fertilizer increased from 24 tonnes to 64 tonnes.

All these factors contributed towards higher sales, going up from Rs 8,220 million to Rs 10,893 million. Gross profit improved from Rs 2,742 million to Rs 3,550 million. Enhanced competition also led to higher sales and distribution expenses, going up from Rs 1,006 million to Rs 1233 million. Further impetus was provided by other operating income amounting to Rs 10 million and reduction in financial charges, coming down from Rs 198.6 million to Rs 231.4 million.

The benefit of higher profit before tax was offset by increase in tax liability. It was due to the full year impact on expiry of the 1993 tax holiday on the earning from expanded capacity and provision of additional taxation on imported products. Provision for tax went up from Rs 127 million for the year 2001 to Rs 802.6 million for the year 2002. Therefore, profit before tax of Rs 1,836 million reduced to Rs 1,133 million profit after tax. As a result of proposed 35% final dividend total payout for the year 2002 came to 75 per cent, at the level of previous year. In addition to this the Board of Directors also approved to issue 10% bonus shares.

Fauji Fertilizer Company (FFC) despite posting lower profit for the year improved its dividend payout as compared to previous year. The total dividend payout for the year 2002 came to 90% as compared to that of 85% for the previous year. The decline in profit can be attributed to higher financial charges and lower other income due to takeover of Saudi Pak Fertilizer (PSFL) and its merger with FFC, effective from July 1, 2002.

FFC's decision to market urea produced at PSFL facility under 'Sona' brand name and 2.4% increase in urea prices, in early July, resulted in 40% growth in sales, going up from Rs 11,982 million to Rs 16,787 million. However, the increase in financial charges and decrease in other income eroded the benefit of higher sales. The reduction in other income can be attributed to injection of one billion rupee into Fauji-Jordan Fertilizer Company (FJFC) and liquidation of investment for the buyout of PSFL. The company also made fresh borrowing, to the tune of Rs 8 billion, for the acquisition of PSFL. The declining interest rates also reduced other income.

According to some analysts FFC enjoys a lot of upside potential, through higher production of urea by improving capacity utilization of PSFL facilities. Reportedly, there is a plan to merge FJFC into FFC. This may help in reducing to management expenses but it would have to carry the burden of closed DAP production facility of FJFC. Revival of the DAP production plant remains a remote possibility. The only available option seems to be sale of the plant. It is a difficult decision and needs a lot of courage on the part of management. However, sector experts say, "Sooner the management makes this decision better it is for the company".

SECTOR OUTLOOK

With the improved water availability fertilizer demand in the country is expected to remain robust. It is evident from a demand growth of 23% for urea and 36% for DAP YoY. However, the growing concern is that local urea production will not be sufficient to meet the enhanced demand. While the installed capacity is not being expanded due to the GoP policy, demand and supply gap will have to be met through import of urea.

The Fertilizer Policy announced in August 2001 failed to create conducive environment for establishment of new 'grass root' urea plants. While there was a need for supply of gas (feedstock) to urea plant at discounted price, the GoP insisted on bringing the feedstock price at the level of 'pipeline' quality gas. The GoP failed to comprehend the fact that the feedstock being supplied from Mari gas field was not of pipeline quality. If the feedstock is of inferior quality it cannot be sold at the price of superior quality gas.

To maintain self-sufficiency in urea, the GoP must review its Fertilizer Policy, particularly the issue of feedstock price, to ensure investment for the establishment of more grass root plants. The point to remember is that feedstock is not being sold at subsidized price, it is sale of inferior quality gas at a discounted price. As such DAP demand is being met through import and import of urea will require additional foreign exchange. It is still not too late to mend.